August 19, 2022
Frontier Communications workers in California are on strike to protest the company’s reported continued subcontracting of work.
The Frontier workers on strike are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). They say the subcontracting is in violation of the collective bargaining agreement between CWA and Frontier.
About 2,000 CWA members walked off the job after several failed meetings with management to resolve a grievance filed over the issue. The CWA said Frontier “admits it is in violation of the subcontracting limit, but has refused to provide the union with information about current subcontracting levels.”
Frank Arce is CWA District 9 vice president.
CWA’s Frank Arce
“Our members are fed up,” he said. “We will no longer allow Frontier to line the pockets of its executives and jeopardize our members’ livelihood by hiring cheaper and inexperienced contractors who provide inferior service. We are simply asking for Frontier to respect the agreed upon protections included in our contract and we are prepared to stay out on the picket line until our demands are met.”
CWA Says Customer Safety, Satisfaction at Risk
By contracting out critical telecommunications services to low-road contracting companies who provide subpar services, Frontier is not only threatening the jobs of CWA members, but also putting customer safety and satisfaction at risk, the union said.
The workers have been without a contract since April 16, when the extension of the previous agreement expired. In March, CWA members rejected a proposed tentative agreement. They said it did not reflect the value they bring to the company and consumers.
Shortly after, CWA and Frontier entered into federal mediation and are in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The company is obligated to maintain the limitations on subcontracting until a new contract has been agreed upon and ratified.
The union has also filed several unfair labor practice charges against Frontier in California. It alleges the company failed to meet its obligations under the collective bargaining agreement. It also alleges the company refused to provide pertinent information.
Frontier sent us the following statement:
“This has been wholly mischaracterized. Like most companies, we’re using contractors to fill a gap as we actively recruit new talent in a tight labor market. Other factors have also pushed us to engage more contractors than normal, like weather-related repair issues, meeting PUC service requirements, and employees not willing to meet overtime requirements. The claim that we refused to provide information is not true. CWA already had the information it had requested from the local managers. We’ve been at the table negotiating in good faith with the CWA to reach a fair contract for everyone. Engaging in a grievance over this issue is a bargaining tactic.”
Frontier said it has plans in place to ensure there is no customer impact from the strike.
Low-road subcontracting has become increasingly prevalent in the telecommunications industry and CWA has been actively raising concerns about its impact on workers and consumers, the union said. An October 2020 report by CWA showed the extent to which carriers rely on a vast network of contracting companies to build out their networks and connect customers to broadband, often cutting their own union employees out of much of this work.
Frontier filed for bankruptcy in April 2020. It engaged in a long restructuring process, which included selling its Northwest operations and assets to WaveDivision Capital. That business now operates as Ziply Fiber. Frontier emerged from bankruptcy in April 2021.
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